HC Deb 11 March 1881 vol 259 cc812-3

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether, seeing that notwithstanding the new rules and declarations of urgency, the usual and necessary business of this House has been practically stopped, and the national safety thereby imperilled, Her Majesty's Government intend to propose such measures as will effectually put an end to the obstruction, and at the same time vindicate the dignity and restore the deliberative and legislative power of Parliament?


Sir, the language used by my right hon. Friend in this Question is very strong, no doubt; but though I might take exception to that clause in which it is stated that the national safety has been imperilled, it is the fact that extremely important matters of national interest have been impeded and delayed. I must confess, however, that I do not think the expression goes far beyond the mark. On the contrary, a Question of this kind tends to rouse the general mind of the House to the fact that the House is involved in very serious difficulties, such as are unexampled in my recollection, though that extends over a long time, and such as are unexampled, I think, in previous history. At the same time, I am sorry to say that we do not intend—that is to say, we do not at present intend—to propose measures for effectually putting an end to the evils which exist, and for this reason, which I am sure my right hon. Friend will be the first to appreciate, that any measures which are to establish a satisfactory general system for the future must go to the consideration of matters quite distinct from simple repression, however necessary and useful repression may be within its own limits, and that such measures must necessarily be themselves subjects of a good deal of consideration, not only by the Government—for the Government have given a good deal of consideration to such measures already—but by the House itself, and consequently their first aspect would be to make a new demand on the time of the House, and new demands of that kind we are not able to make any provision for whatever. We are, to use a homely expression, at present in a condition of living from hand-to-mouth, so far as regards time and the transaction of Business; and when in a few minutes I come to make the statement I have promised to the House in regard to Public Business, my right hon. Friend will see how very great are the difficulties even in making and devising expedients to meet the absolute exigencies of the moment, and discharging those duties which we have no choice or option whatever as to the time of bringing them forward.